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Arts and Culture

Flamenco group paints the stage red

CULTURE VULTURE - Therese Jamora-Garceau - The Philippine Star

We always remember the moments when we fall in love.  I remember when I first fell in love with flamenco: vacationing in Spain with my family, my mom, who had been studying flamenco for a number of years, took us to a show at Casa de la Memoria in Sevilla. I had always enjoyed watching my mother dance at her recitals, but it had never really struck me as something I wanted to do.

That night, however, changed everything. Two dancers took the stage  a man and a woman  along with a female singer and a guitarist named Tino. Although the male dancer was good, I can’t even recall his name now because I was totally taken by his partner, Marta Arias.  Though she was covered from neck to toe in a figure-hugging costume, she exuded such passion, raw emotion and sensuality that I found myself falling in love … with her, with the beautiful, powerful woman she portrayed, and with flamenco.

That’s when I thought, “Hey, I want to learn how to do that.”

Back in the Philippines, I found Arias’s counterpart  a beautiful, powerful woman who danced flamenco like a dream  in my mother’s teacher, Emma Estrada.

Estrada, or “Teacher Emma,” as we like to call her, founded Fundacion Centro Flamenco 10 years ago, bringing Spain’s beloved gypsy art to the Philippines.

She opened Centro at the SGJ Centre on Kalayaan Avenue (near Rockwell) with the support of former Spanish ambassador to the Philippines Tomas Rodriguez-Pantoja and Instituto Cervantes director Javier Galván.

“I formed the foundation with the vision of not only being able to teach what I had learned of flamenco but as a creative haven where flamenco artists and teachers both here and from abroad could share their ideas and find inspiration from each other,” she says, “encouraging interaction between local and foreign teachers and students.”

As a beginner I started studying at Centro with Estrada’s co-professor Cecile de Joya, a Bayanihan dancer with extensive experience in ballet and jazz before devoting her expertise to flamenco. As I got better under Teacher Cecile’s patient tutelage and moved up to the intermediate level, I started taking Teacher Emma’s classes two years ago. I fell in love with flamenco again, to the point that it became my sole form of exercise.  Last year we even traveled together as a group to Spain to study flamenco in the place where it was born: Granada in Andalucia.

My maestra’s path was markedly different from mine. Teacher Emma was studying with Guillermo Gomez in Manila when former Spanish ambassador to the Philippines Delfin Colomé approached her after one of their performances and encouraged her to travel to Spain to study at renowned flamenco school Amor de Dios. “I took his advice and this set me on the path of flamenco.”

At Amor de Dios, one of her most memorable professors was La Truco, who danced flamenco with “a softer feel  her hand movements were graceful and serene and suited my Filipina temperament.” On the other end of the spectrum she was awed by the raw power of La Tati and Antonio Reyes, who danced with abandon reminiscent of the gypsies of Granada.

After many years of teaching flamenco Estrada decided to collaborate with the growing talent pool that had blossomed under the foundation and set up a performing group called Grupo Nuevo Flamenco. “While Fundacion Centro Flamenco focuses mainly on teaching and flamenco professors coming together to share their knowledge, Grupo Nuevo Flamenco’s focus is on spreading awareness of flamenco through actual performances.” This year alone the group has performed 20 shows and has a bi-weekly stint at Barcino in Greenbelt 2, dancing every other Saturday night at 9 p.m.

To mark Centro Flamenco’s 10-year anniversary, Estrada conceived of not just a recital, as Centro has done in years past, but a special show with an actual storyline, “La Luna Roja (The Red Moon),” directed by Leo Rialp. “I’ve worked with Leo since our show ‘Pasyon y Fuego’ in 2007,” Estrada says. “Leo’s approach to flamenco is always tasteful and sophisticated; he directs flamenco with class while remaining true to the passionate soul of the dance.

“For our 10-year anniversary we decided to push our boundaries, using flamenco not only to convey raw emotion but to actually tell a story,” she continues.  “La Luna Roja is an original work, a fairytale with a distinctly flamenco flavor. The tale aspires to lay bare the many aspects of the feminine mystique: the anguished mother, the playful youngster, the spurned lover, the selfless protector and the hopeful bride.”

As a flamenco student and now dancer  I’ve become part of Nuevo Flamenco myself, which shows you that miracles do happen  it’s been an amazing ride and adventure. Not only have I gotten to absorb the art from the cobblestoned streets of Albaicin, which every night would be filled with music, but I’ve also been able to learn from teachers like Centro’s new professor, Juan de los Reyes, who hails from Madrid and was a bailarin (dancer) at the Ballet Nacional de España.

“Flamenco is a difficult art form and it is rewarding to watch my students finally make that breakthrough where they go beyond just learning the steps to understanding the emotions of flamenco and making the dance their own,” Estrada says. “Watching the intensity in the students’ faces when they are dancing flamenco, I know they have lost themselves in the passion of the dance.”

* * *

“La Luna Roja” will show on Dec. 1 at the RCBC Theater in Makati. For tickets, contact Stella at 0905-298-0201.

AS I

AT AMOR

FLAMENCO

GRUPO NUEVO FLAMENCO

LA LUNA ROJA

TEACHER EMMA

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